MaryBeth Eberhard contemplates Mary as a model of the sacrificial love all mothers are called to display.
I looked in the mirror this morning in wonder at the woman I saw before me. I knew her face and her features, but there was something in her eyes that was different; a newness that hadn’t been there before. Ahh, I thought, there you are. You see, this is not the first time I have had this moment; a moment when God allows me to see Him working in me.
I remember when my son Gabriel was born with Arthrogryposis. His legs were bent behind his back touching his neck and his ear was touching his hip. His spine was curved and his muscles were atrophied. As he was taken from my arms to another hospital, my husband in pursuit, I remember asking the Lord, “How are we going to do this?” Sixteen years later, I look at the young man he has become through 37 procedures, surgeries, and thousands of therapy days, and I am in awe of the transformation. Physically, yes, my son sits tall in his wheelchair, taking his college classes, cheering on his lacrosse team, hanging with friends, and teaching chess. But there is more. His life is a witness to perseverance and walking that journey with him has formed me as well. I look back at the young woman who sixteen years ago cried out to the Lord for guidance and I can still feel the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This font of love, hope, and courage that has strengthened, and formed me into the wife and mother I am today. I could not have become this woman without having walked these past sixteen years. The Lord knew the journey I had to take. It is important to recognize that in our struggles we are being formed more closely into the person God created us to be.
It has been a season over the past couple of years in my home, where I have faced very challenging situations. I pondered how I was going to walk through. The pragmatic part of me knew that one day in front of the other has a way of moving you forward, but wisdom speaks that how we have placed each foot matters also. Is it with trust or resentment? Is it with expectancy or resignation? The Lord works with what we give him, but a stocked fridge is a whole lot easier to create a meal with than the end of the month’s rations.
I often speak of “situations” in family life. I love my writing and the ability to share stories with my readers. When sharing family stories, there is a dignity for each member that must be protected, even when that person does not see the value. Each of us has faced and are currently facing “situations” where we are being asked to be stronger than we think we can be. We are being asked to trust the Lord implicitly in this time as we are again in the crucible of drawing closer to His heart. Looking back, I can see the worth of this trust placed in the Lord.
I love to create environments of warmth and security for my family. From family meals and family prayer to snuggling under a blanket and reading books, these warm tender moments fill my soul and bring comfort to my family. I am so comfortable being this woman. Ahh, but the words of Pope Benedict come upon my heart, “The world offers you comfort. But you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.”
Greatness for me is becoming that saint of a wife and mother that witnesses Jesus Christ to others in what I think, say, and do. Like the Blessed Mother whose fiat changed the trajectory of her life and models for us the path to sanctification, I want to always be ready for transformation. To do this, like Mother Mary, I must be willing to sacrifice greatly. Sacrifice is a common theme of our faith. Sacrifice means forsaking what I want for a greater good. Saint Thomas Aquinas reminds us that love is willing the good of the other. Therefore, sacrificial love is forsaking what I want for the greater good of the other.
As Christians we see the arduous and brutal sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross. His body given up for us. I am, however, always a woman and a mother and it is from that lens that I often examine my life. What a mother we have in Mary, Mother of our Lord! We speak of sacrifice and fiats, many times saying yes to the Lord. With her yes, she sacrificed for us all. She knew the suffering and the emotional pain she would have to go through with her yes. The transformation of the Blessed Mother from the young girl who gave her life’s path to Jesus, to the woman who is the Mother of the Church constantly beckoning us closer to the heart of her Son, calling us into repentance and love witnesses such sacrificial love for her children. This is the heart I am being molded to and the heart that will carry me to the throne of Jesus.
The messiness of family life, the “situations” that we find ourselves facing, are opportunities for sanctification where we allow ourselves to be changed. While I love the sweet and soft mothering time, I am in a time of needing to be firm and fierce. Mama Mary provides that model as well. She shows me that a mother’s firmness directs the course of her children’s life. She demonstrates that this sacrifice of comfort is worth the saving of souls. She shows me that great love is shown when consequences of sin are shown, when truth is spoken. We look to Fatima to see this example. This firmness, these loving boundaries are necessary to protect, advise and love my family in their next stages of life.
I looked at myself the other day through a different mirror. I sat before Jesus in Adoration. I looked upon myself through the lens of His love and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit swelled within me. I felt my body breathe deeply of the breath that was already within me. Imagine the beautiful reality that we can breathe deeply of the Spirit that already dwells within us!
My eyes flashed before the Lord, my head raised, and I nodded with understanding. This mission of motherhood is my offering. Through my sacrifice, the new way I am being formed to love, I am blooming more fully into the woman He created me to be. Thank you, Jesus, for your steadfast patience. Thank you, Mother Mary, for your guidance on the path to your Son.
Copyright 2022 MaryBeth Eberhard
About the Author
MaryBeth Eberhard spends most of her time laughing as she and her husband parent and school their eight children. She has both a biological son and an adopted daughter who have a rare neuromuscular condition called arthrogryposis and writes frequently about the life experiences of a large family and special needs. Read more of her work at MaryBethEberhard.com.